Thursday, 23 January 2020 20:44

Raider bowlers just miss out on state qualifier, Grant leads team with strong finish

Written by
Rate this item
(0 votes)
Junior Joseph Grant gives a fist pump after bowling a strike in the 10th frame during his third game on Thursday. Junior Joseph Grant gives a fist pump after bowling a strike in the 10th frame during his third game on Thursday. Kyle Pillar — Sports Editor.

LUMBERTON — The lanes at Lumberton Bowling Center were booming Thursday afternoon as the Sandhills Athletic Conference held its annual boys’ singles tournament.

Richmond Senior High School was present with eight members of its team, battling in the field of 55 bowlers made up of the seven other SAC schools. 

Representing the Raiders were senior Luke Preslar, juniors Tyler Bittle, Joseph Grant, Hunter Hancock and Mitchell Massey, sophomores Dexter Mabe and Cameron Way and freshman William White.

Second-year head coach Ralph Butler knew the competition would be fierce, and for the second straight season, the Raiders just missed out on sending someone to the singles state championship, which saw the top 10 bowlers qualify.

In the program’s first season, 2017-2018, Richmond saw then senior Justin Ingram qualify for the state tournament and eventually go on to finish 12th overall. Last week, current senior Hailey Miller punched her ticket with a 10th-place finish in the girls’ singles event.

Unlike the regular season, which follows the Baker format, bowlers rolled three individual games on Thursday. After a slow first game, Grant finished the day strong to collect 504 total pins, missing the cut by just 72 pins and finishing in 16th place.

Grant bowled a 120 the first game, and followed it with a 179 in the second game. As the oil dried up on the lanes, something he said worked to his advantage, he concluded with a team-high 205 in his third game.

During the final game, he started with a spare and rolled four straight strikes in the second through fifth frames. He added spares in the sixth and ninth frames, and two more strikes in the eighth and 10th frames.

“I was standing at the middle or the second arrow, and the oil started drying up on the lanes,” Grant explained of his progression. “That gave me a better pocket shot at the one and two pins. It worked out well for me.

“Once I finished the second game I thought I had a good chance of getting over 180,” he added. “The ball I have is a middle to low oil pattern ball, so the higher I was putting it out in the middle, there was more friction being put on the ball and was getting to the pocket almost every time.”

The 2019-2020 Raider bowling team at Thursday’s SAC singles tournament.

Lumberton High School would take the top three spots in the event, seeing Reece Taylor earn first place with a score of 675 pins (256, 204 and 215). Fellow Pirates Jacob Britt (659 pins) and Aaron Lee (642 pins) took second and third, respectively.

A cluster of Raiders finished near the middle of the pack, as Massey was second on the team with a 24th-place finish. He bowled a final score of 459 pins behind game scores of 160, 140 and 159.

Bittle was three pins shy of Massey with 456 pins, putting him in 25th place (151, 141 and 164). Hancock closed his second season with the team a single pin behind Bittle, tallying 455 pins (126, 173 and 156). 

Also finishing inside the top 30 was Way, whose final score of 449 pins was good enough for 28th place (152, 116 and 181).

Rounding out the Raiders’ performance were White (31st place, 421 pins), Mabe (39th place, 387 pins) and Preslar (41st place, 374 pins).

“It was a tough field today and the pin total averages normally have to be up around 180,” Butler explained. “Joseph came the closest to that and he had a good day. Mitchell and Tyler were close together. Overall, I was pleased and most of the guys at least had one really good game above their season average.

“With the boys, the key is eliminating the low games,” he continued. “Our guys have improved their low scores, but they can’t have them at all if they want to place. Consistency is the key, and our guys have the ability to roll a 200 game. They just need to do it more consistently.”

Also qualifying for the state tournament were: Samuel Locklear (Hoke County, 618), Blake Kenton (Pinecrest, 617), Chandler Inman (Jack Britt, 614), Matthew Bershers (Hoke County, 605), Zachary Wallace (Pinecrest, 593), Brayden Jacobs (Purnell Swett, 589) and Ethan Lowery (Scotland, 576).

Although he won’t be sending any of his bowlers to the state title bout in early February, Butler said the way his team competed on Thursday give him confidence that the Raiders can compete and possibly qualify for the team state tournament in next week’s SAC tournament.

That event sends the top three finishers to the state match, which happened last season when Richmond took third at the SAC championship.

“Hopefully they can carry over this momentum and these higher averages into the conference tournament,” Butler said. “If we can get some scores above 180 and bowl consistently, then we have a shot to upset some teams.

“We’ve proven we can upset teams, we did it earlier this season against Jack Britt,” he closed.

Grant shared the same sentiments as his coach as the No. 6 Raiders will compete against No.3 Scotland in the opening round of the single-elimination team tournament.

“I think all of our third games were a confidence booster,” Grant said. “We’ll be ready for this conference match and I think we can put something together.”

The Raiders, as well as the No. 5 Lady Raiders, will compete in the SAC tournament championship next Thursday at Lafayette Lanes in Fayetteville. The girls will compete against No. 4 Jack Britt, with action getting underway at 4 p.m.

Kyle Pillar

Sports Editor. IUP communications media and journalism alumni. English teacher, Ninth Grade Academy.

Submit local sports scores to:

Twitter: ROSports_

Instagram: ROSports